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The Internet and the Rise of Incompetence
lundi 4 décembre 2006

Voici un petit texte que nous avons trouvé dans le dernier numéro de la newsletter de MPR ; Microprocessor Report, une publication qui fait autorité dans le domaine des microprocesseurs.

Le texte est terrible, même si l’on lit seulement cela

<< No matter which strategy we adopt, we must develop tools and methods to quickly access and use our Internet-based common memory as if it were our own—the books, the sciences, the knowledge—to keep up with a rate of innovation that outpaces training. >>

- On peut croire qu’il faut pouvoir imaginer les conséquences de cette dernière phrase ;
- Tenant compte de ce qui précède, et qui montre en partie tous les usages possibles de la technologies, dont Internet aujourd’hui ;
- Ainsi que les conséquences sur et par l’activité humaine...

Cela va-t-il pour le mieux ? Pas essentiellement !

Ce principe prévalait-il, il y a 100 ans, voire plus ?

Donc voici, à lire

Nous donnons le texte ici aussi :


Editorial : The Internet and the Rise of Incompetence

Max Baron - Principal Analyst, MPR ( 11/27/2006)

Communicator par excellence, reader and writer of the common memory of the human race—the Internet—is used by many companies to reduce cost. Consumers are being offered Internet-supported partially functional products and lower-quality services obtained from fewer employees, who are lower paid and less trained.

We, the consumers, accept and purchase the results. We encourage less training and less thinking because many employers seek the lower cost of the lesser trained. Devaluing the need for knowledge and expertise promotes incompetence, however.

In many products, to increase revenue, companies trade quality and reliability for more deliverables to sell. They must meet time to market before the engineering and manufacturing teams can gain the expertise to use new technologies to design, test, and improve. Many companies are sending out products known to need fixes designed by too few good engineers plus inexperienced designers.

In services, cost cutting is replacing conversation between humans, interpretation of knowledge, intuition, and creative thought with machines that can only dispense canned data. Humans are still needed to execute physical functions that computers can’t do today. Infrequently, a few qualified people are left to respond to the persistent customer who insists on talking to a person.

Incompetence or the lack of experience is not characteristic of the electronics business only. It is becoming a broad aspect of almost all walks of life, the result of companies using the latest technology to offer less for the same price or a higher one.

The idea of partially functional good products seems to have started with shareware, an honest business model meant to support programmers who had no financial means of turning their ideas into regular commercial products. To take legal ownership or license of a program, the customer would pay the writer of software a small sum of money, which sometimes would also cover a software upgrade to a more functional and better tested program.

The shareware principle was quickly adopted by commercial software companies that believed the business model was justified by the complexity of some programs and the time spent debugging and making them fully functional. "Bill Gates taught everybody," some say, referring to the frequent updates we see coming from Microsoft and others, but we must be skeptical when all software providers selling incomplete products invoke complexity. Some products, such as Microsoft’s, are really complex and must be frequently updated to fix bugs and keep up with security threats and processor evolution. Some products, however, are the result of management haste or inexperienced designers. Perhaps details and links beyond the human mind can be fairly characterized as complexity, but a shortcoming in the knowledge of programming, mathematics, physics, and the behavior of systems required for multimedia can be characterized only as incompetence.

Hardware designers got the idea from the same source—shareware. Hardware vendors embraced after-sale fixes via the Internet but had to use mail, the old-fashioned means, in dealing with the hardware parts that needed replacement. Intel’s processor ID and floating-point problems were not intentional ; they were engendered by complexity. Intel solved the problems via software and by shipping chips that functioned correctly, both at no cost to the customer, a credit to this professional company.

Nikon intended to use the Internet to fix camera firmware. The means to fix and market more after-sale firmware was designed in. Owners of Nikon’s $1,000 D70 camera body were sent new, "improved" firmware via the Internet, but they had to be very careful downloading it into the camera. Nikon’s designers were probably not aware of the outcome of placing the boot sequence in flash memory but found a "fix" for the problem : if you overwrote the boot sequence, all you had to do was send the camera to the nearest service lab, which would repair the firmware for you and charge you for Nikon’s hasty engineering. Additionally, some of the cameras had to be recalled, and some (outsourced) batteries were discovered to be dangerous and had to be exchanged.

But Nikon’s story is typical of the industry : Sony’s battery recalls, delays in launching products, Sony PlayStation 3’s incompatibility with a few dozen existing PS2 games (to be fixed), Apple’s virus-carrying iPods, the strange color casts of the $4,500 Leica M8, and Panasonic’s DVD recorder updates sent via the Internet. These are just a few more examples of an industry bent on using unfamiliar technologies to create many new products quickly, with little attention to the training and competence of the employees or the outsource companies delivering them.

Take e-ticketing, a service over the Internet. You save $10 by buying your air travel ticket via the Internet. But a new phase two is being introduced at the airport. Automatic check-in machines await the e-ticket holder, who is no longer allowed to speak with a human being. At United and American, for example, you’ll find a long line of people trying to figure out how to check in. You will quickly learn that the two-hour wait before flight, which is often blamed on security, is most often spent on the airline that has reduced its personnel budget. You take your luggage to the one person serving four self-check-in machines only when your name is called. The airline agent sticks the receipt on the envelope you got from the check-in monster. "I’m in seat 20A ; is that a bulkhead seat ?" you ask, "And is the flight on time ?" "Sir," the person answers, "I know nothing about that, I just take your luggage and give you a receipt." Knowledgeable ticketing persons are being replaced by fewer employees, offering fewer services that require little or no training. From the viewpoint of the service and information you expect to get, the check-in desk is now served by incompetent people.

By now, we must be so used to telephone menus that we’re no longer aware that they are used by companies to reduce the number of telephone operators. With basic company information available via menus, the operators, if any, are paid less and need to know less. The telephone menu is sometimes extended to human support personnel, who will attempt to give you canned answers before finally connecting you with an expert or the next layer of answering people. Many websites work the same way. If, in addition to the always-present e-mail contact, you find a telephone number and dial it, the menu answers.

Think of our own profession : design engineering. When asked what they will do when 45nm process technology becomes important, some people tell you they are not worried ; they’ll wait until design automation makes 45nm invisible via design tools. No need and no will to study. Many are already accepting codecs in C/C++ without understanding how they work.

Finally, think of the free or fee-based information available on the Internet. How does one separate the incompetent from the expert ? Which information is useful and valuable and which inaccurate and discardable ? Many people can’t decide. Doesn’t this encourage inexperience ?

A long time ago, worried employees were asking their managers, "Are we going to be replaced by computers ?" "No," was the answer, "computers will be doing the hard, menial work, and you will do the higher-level thinking." Today, nothing could be farther from the truth. Computers and the Internet are being used to reduce the workforce and to swap expert personnel for low-paid personnel doing menial tasks. Where is the dream of our working less and working more intelligently ?

Leaving behind the "good old times," we ask several questions : Should or could this situation be avoided ? If there is a trend toward less training and fewer studies, is it good or bad ? If computers and the Internet do all this time-consuming hard work, what do we create in our newly found spare time ?

Seen from the buyer’s viewpoint, incomplete products and services should be avoided, because one doesn’t know how incomplete they are and what their fair value is. But today’s scenario can’t be avoided : it’s being driven by competition. We should develop ways to separate good products from bad, because price or brand names are no longer accurate indicators. We must be more discerning about what information we should consider wise and reliable. This strategy will increase the number of experts.

The next strategy is to accept and support companies sharing with the end user the debugging and even the definition of products and services. The end user becomes part of the development team. While this approach is used now, in some cases, for shipping less than wonderful products, it may be the precursor to the way we need to overcome really complex problems in the future. With the average user better educated about what the product should do and better informed about what the services are no longer providing, we may be seeing more of a redistribution of expertise across many people than a loss of competence.

No matter which strategy we adopt, we must develop tools and methods to quickly access and use our Internet-based common memory as if it were our own—the books, the sciences, the knowledge—to keep up with a rate of innovation that outpaces training. >>

Au fil de l’eau du Web

René Chevance, Denis Lebey

The Internet and the Rise of Incompetence

Dans la même rubrique :
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Inspiré de Edgar Morin
Portail de l’Épistémologie ; Ressources francophones
Michel Foucault ; management de la qualité
Repenser la qualité
Qualité - épistémologie
Coin des auteurs
Emergence et représentation

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